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Pasta

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one of my favorite things about spring in new york is how it reinvigorates the farmer’s market in union square. the market never quite disappears in the winter, braving those chilling days when it feels like the wind could cut straight through your cheeks and leave you wounded – but in the spring, it truly comes alive again. the square bustles with people: moms pushing double strollers and dads carrying babies and baggus. teenagers skateboarding past the strawberries and young couples picking out fresh flowers one by one. this past weekend was the first one in the city that truly felt like spring. i went to sleep on friday night, and when i woke up saturday morning, the sun was shining bright. the clouds were so fluffy it looked like if you jumped high enough you could land in them, sinking into their softness and squeezing in a 20 minute power nap. it was the perfect spring day: crisp air, highs in the upper fifties, the promise of something new and beautiful to come.

weather like that, it makes you forget that someone puked on the subway before. it’s like someone colors the city with a hazy, rose tint, and all of a sudden, everything is wonderful and nothing bad exists. it is, in other words, the perfect time to go shopping. and so shop i did. i came home from the farmer’s market with a slew of fresh fruit and veggies and on sunday afternoon, i took to my kitchen and went nuts. i made homemade chocolate chip cookie ice cream (recipe to come later this week), and then decided to meld all my fresh spring veggies into one delicious spring pasta. it was so delicious that i thought you might want to make it for yourself. what’s that? you do want to? great. the how-to is below.

The Recipe

2 cloves of garlic, diced

2 cups assorted sliced veggies – i used asparagus, zucchini, green beans and spinach

1 lemon, zested and juiced

1/3 box of penne (i like barilla)

2 tsp of olive oil

salt and pepper to taste

parmesan to taste

Make it

this recipe is insanely easy to make. it’s so simple, in fact, that i’m not even really sure it counts as a recipe. but whatever. it’s my blog and i can lie about recipes if i want to. so, let’s do this thing.

to start, slice all your veggies. you can use whatever spring veggies you’ve got around. i threw some frozen peas in at the last minute, and damn, were they good. your veggies should be cut into approximately 1″ pieces. they don’t have to be baby bite size, but you also don’t to be shoving an entire asparagus stalk in your mouth at one time. and if you do, well, you’re not allowed to eat at my house.

put a pot of cold water on the stove and bring to a rolling boil. when it gets there, dump in your pasta and add a pinch of salt. while your pasta is cooking, saute your veggies. put your olive oil into a pan and give it about a minute to heat up. add your diced garlic and give that a minute to get all fragrant and wonderful and garlicky. now, dump in your veggies. if your pan is too dry, feel free to add a bit more olive oil. a little more EVOO never hurt no one. while your veggies cook, zest your lemon into the pan. mmm, smell that lemony deliciousness. SO GOOD. don’t juice it just yet. that will come later.

when your pasta is done, drain it and reserve a tiny bit of the pasta water. pour it into a pretty bowl. now, add the sautéed veggies on top of it. take a fork and mix it all together for good measure. now, juice your lemon over the pasta and mix again. smells good, doesn’t it? season with salt and pepper to taste, and grate some fresh parm on top.

et voila! a delicious spring dinner.

note: if you’re looking to even this dish out, i’d recommend sautéing some shrimp with a bit of lemon juice, or grilling up some chicken to slice on top of it. protein’s great and all, but man, sometimes a girl just wants CARBS.

now, go forth and make something springy!

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you know that phrase “stressed is desserts” spelled backwards? well, sometimes i think stressed is carbs, spelled…i don’t know how. basically, what i’m trying to say is that as much as i love sweets (hello, blog name), there comes a time in a girl’s life (or day) when she just wants to eat carbs.

enter, a big bowl o’ pasta. i ask you, is there anything carbs can’t cure? a pot of penne can sop up a lot of tears, and we all know pasta cooks in salt water. yesterday was a long day, and even though it included a mini cupcake from crumbs, i still came home wanting nothing more than to cuddle up on the couch with some spaghetti and watch my DVR-ed episode of SVU. of course, the fact that SVU wasn’t new this week was a major let down, but i made do with nashville. can’t win ’em all!

i did, however, luck out with this super easy pasta recipe that’s sopped in garlic and freshened up by lemon zest and italian flat leaf parsley. i found it here, and i’d highly recommend it. this thing is YUMMY. major kudos to the chef. i didn’t measure as closely as the original recipe and so i’ve rewritten it slightly below. i’d recommend this dish for long days, when you want something delicious but don’t feel like slaving over the stove, or when you’re having company over, and you want to look like you’re an amazing italian chef who just happened to end up in new york (if you go this route, might i suggest an italian accent to go with)? no, but really. make this. it’s easy. and so, so good. Image

 The Recipe: Lemon Pasta with Parsley and Parmesan

 You’ll need:

 * 3/4 lb spaghetti ( I used the Trader Joe’s brand)

* 5 garlic cloves, minced

* 1/4 cup olive oil

* 2 tablespoons butter

* 1/2 cup flat leaf parsley, chopped

* the zest of 2 large lemons

* the juice of one large lemon (about 1/3 cup)

* salt and pepper to taste

* a whole lot of pram

 To make:

First things first: cook spaghetti as directed in a large pot of salted water. While pasta is cooking, prep your other ingredients (yes, it’s that easy).

First, heat olive oil and butter on low in a small saucepan. Don’t turn it on high, your butter will burn. Mince your garlic, and add it to your olive oil/butter mixture and turn the heat up slightly. Cook until tender and fragrant (your kitchen will smell amazing right about now), about 3-5 minutes. While it’s cooking, zest and juice your lemons.

Drain pasta and place into a large serving bowl. Dump garlic and olive oil mixture atop of pasta and stir to incorporate evenly. Inhale. Exhale, and toss pasta with parsley, lemon zest and lemon juice. Resist the urge to take a bite right now. Season liberally with salt and pepper, and toss with freshly grated parmesan.

 Now, you can take a bite. Go ahead. See? I told you so. It’s good. Just try not to eat the whole thing (but I won’t blame you if you can’t help it).

Kale Parsley Pesto Pastaa few weeks ago, my parents came to visit me here in NYC, and brought with them a bevy of fresh fruits and veggies – some from fairway, and others that had been hand delivered to my mother by her farm worker patients at the government-funded health center where she works.

let’s back up a bit. the town where i grew up is nothing short of idyllic, all rolling hills and freshly cut lawns and old victorians, with highly-rated public schools and well-paved sidewalks. it’s the sort of town where pedestrians have the right of way, where cars are required to stop for anyone on foot. the sort of town where, for the most part, everybody knows everybody. it’s the sort of town that allows lesbians on the bima at the synagogue (though my two mothers were the first at our shul to do so), the sort of town that then goes on to elect a lesbian mayor. it might not be pleasantville (our life is definitely lived in color…in the rainbow, really), but it’s pretty damn close.

which is why it’s surprising to hear that there are poorly-treated farm workers pulling sixteen hour days shelling soybeans not twenty minutes away from our picturesque new england main street. growing up in the pioneer valley, one thinks such atrocities wouldn’t occur. not in our house! not on our watch! we are a town of politically-minded left wing hippies who believe in equal rights for all. certainly, we wouldn’t allow such abuse to go on behind closed (or, heaven forbid, open!) doors. but since my mom took her job at the health center, i’ve heard quite a few horror stories, many of which come at the hands of people that are pillars of the local community. 

i’ll leave you to infer what’s gone on by reading the article above – but trust me when i say that the people my mother cares for are, for all intents and purposes, people that have been left behind by this country. their rights, if they have any, have been violated, time and time again. and yet, many of them insist that the money they make here, the treatment they receive here – it’s worth it because it enables them to support their families, many of whom are back in their home country. they tell my mother things that breaks her heart. every single day. and somehow she still gets up each morning and does it again, like a brave, proud soldier, ensuring that anyone that steps over the threshold of her waiting room door gets the care they deserve. to say i have the utmost respect for the work she does would be the understatement of a lifetime. while i sit here and type up a dinky blog post, she’s out changing the world and making it a better place for everyone, not just for those who have been deemed by society and the law to deserve it.

it’s no surprise, then, that with all she does to care for these people (and she truly goes above and beyond, every day), they like to give back to her, oftentimes by bringing her a bit of their bounty. as part of their employment as farm workers, they’re allowed to take some of what they pick, and often, they bring it to her, and she, in turn, brings it to me. this visit, i was gifted with farm fresh kale, italian parsley, and the ugliest but tastiest tomatoes i’ve ever seen.

what does one do with kale and parsley? lots of things. parsley is a great garnish, and kale can be cooked, steamed, blanched, put into a salad, a pasta dish, a soup. but for some reason, i looked at my kale and immediately thought, what about pesto? so make pesto i did, with parsley and parmesan and sliced almonds and a whole lot of garlic. and i was worried that it’d be a bit weird, but to my surprise, it was totally delicious. and i made enough to have plenty to store in my freezer for later on.

so, let’s make some pesto with a side of politics, shall we?

note: pesto is one of those things that’s really all about taste-testing. so my “measurements” are more recommendations, because you might want more or less garlic, more or less cheese, or more parsley than kale. just stick your finger into the food processor (when it’s not running, obviously) and do a little taste test now and then.

The Recipe

About 6 cups of kale, slightly chopped (i used raw, but you could blanch yours slightly if you were so inclined)

1 1/2 cups parsley (don’t throw the stems in)

1 cup parmesan cheese (i used pre-shredded, but if you buy the real thing it’ll be way better)

1/2 cup sliced almonds (or walnuts, or any nut you choose – pine nuts would be great too)

2 or 3 cloves garlic, chopped

olive oil

to make, dole out all your ingredients and throw them into your food processor. i laid my kale in there first, then my parsley, then spread my almonds and my cheese on top, as you’ll see in the picture. then in went the garlic. then i poured enough olive oil into swirl the perimeter a few times. i’d estimate it was a few tablespoons, but again, pesto is a fluid recipe. you can add more or less depending on the texture you’re looking to achieve. 

throw the top on and pulse to blend. if your pesto looks chunky, throw in a bit more olive oil and pulse some more. now, stop the motor and stick your finger (or a spoon, if you’re fancy and a germaphobe) in and have a taste. at this point, add salt and pepper if you think it needs it. mine didn’t, because parm and garlic are pretty darn salty already. once it’s reached a creamy consistency, remove and either mix immediately into pasta (which i did but forgot to photograph because i was too busy stuffing my face with deliciousness), or divy up into plastic bags to freeze.

note: you can see my bags above. what i do is scoop about two heaping tablespoons into a plastic foldover baggie. then i twist the tops so they make a little hershey’s kiss shape and tie the tops off. then snip off the extra with scissors. then i throw all the little baggies into one big freezer-safe baggie, and voila – pesto, whenever i want it. this is a trick i picked up from my parents, who’ve been making their own pesto for as long as i can remember thanks to the hords of basil that they grow in their garden. god bless suburbia, huh?

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you know what starts with the letter P? pasta. and pancetta. and you know what else? pretty little liars, which is my favorite guilty pleasure show on TV (and it’s not even really a guilty pleasure because it’s just that good). last week, my PLL partner in crime and i threw together this amazing pasta dish, which i found via jamie oliver before we turned on the TV, and let me tell you, this ish is GOOD. melt in your mouth creamy, accented with the slightly tangy taste of fresh mint leaves, and oh so salty thanks to the pancetta. of course, there’s a big dose of carbs in there, and let’s be real – everyone loves carbs (except those people on the atkins diet, and i’m not really worried about them). 

my friend alissa whipped up this recipe like a champ (and girl thinks she’s not good in the kitchen! proof that anyone can follow a recipe and make something DELISH), and then we plopped down on her overstuffed couch and stuffed our faces while watching pretty teenage girls say things like, “BITCH CAN SEE!” it came together in under 20 minutes, and did i mention it’s creamy and delicious and i ate two huge helpings? (what? i was carbo-loading for my walk back down the stairs). Image

make it. i made it again the next night, and we’re making it again tomorrow. it’s not that we lack creativity – but that it’s yummy and easy and makes you look like a legitimate chef. 


The Recipe (adapted from Jamie Oliver’s recipe for carbonara)

Makes enough for four servings, or two super hungry folks.

1 pound pasta of your choice (i like penne)

1 egg

3.5 fl oz (about 1/2 cup heavy cream)

sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

about 12 slices of pancetta, thinly sliced (generally, one grocery store sized package will do)

3 handfuls fresh or frozen peas 

4 sprigs of fresh mint, chopped, a few more for decorative purposes

1 cup freshly grated parmesan, for topping

to make, bring a pot of salted water to a boil, then add pasta and cook according to instructions (i find around 7-8 minutes to be the sweet spot for most boxed pastas, and barilla is my go-to brand). 

whisk the egg in a bowl and mix in the heavy cream and salt and pepper. in a large skillet, cook your pancetta until crispy and golden. your kitchen will smell orgasmic by now. 

when your pasta has nearly cooked (let’s say around the 6 minute mark), add the peas for the last minute or so. this will cook them ever so slightly, but won’t overdo it. when the timer dings, drain your pasta and peas and reserve a bit of the pasta water.

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dump your pasta and peas mixture into your pancetta skillet and stir. now, stir in most of your sliced mint (save a little bit for topping purposes). if you like things minty, add even more. i did, because i do. there’s really nothing like fresh mint, especially when peas are involved. note: if your pan is too small, you can do all your mixing in a large bowl – but the pan is better, because the pasta will cook a tiny bit more in a warmed environment. Image

now, add the egg and cream mixture to the pasta. you need to make sure and add it while the pasta is still hot, but while the heat isn’t actually on the pan anymore. if you’re careful, the residual heat of the pasta will cook the eggs (since no one likes raw eggs); if things are too hot up in here, you’ll get a curdled, scrambled egg like sauce. GUH-ROSS. do it right (leave the pasta be for a minute or two to cool slightly, remove from heat) and you’ll get a silky smooth sauce. toss everything together and add your reserved pasta water to loosen things up a bit if need be (i needed to). 

divy up into four bowls, season again with a bit of salt and pepper and sprinkle with your remaining mint and however much parm you like (i love cheese). serve asap; this one doesn’t reheat all that well. 

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beets are one of those things i used to wrinkle my nose at. kind of the way kids feel about things like cabbage and brussel sprouts. you know, like this, “ewwwww. you expect me to eat that? GUH-ROSS, MOM!” i think i’ve mentioned before that as a youngin’, i wasn’t much for adventurous eating. things with odd textures, odd colors, and odd tastes just weren’t for me. this list included, at one time or another, mushrooms, onions, and red meat – as well as the aforementioned brussel sprouts, cabbage and beets.

let me tell you a funny story. the summer before i entered my freshman year of high school, my family, along with one of my oldest and bestest friends, kim, spent two weeks in france. we did a week in an apartment in paris that was full of crinkly wallpaper and aged herringbone wood floors and the kind of crown moulding that makes me cry with joy. of course, as a teenager, i didn’t appreciate the architectural details of the space; i had yet to develop a taste for interior design.

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this isn’t where we stayed. this is designer erin fetherston’s paris apartment – but it reminds me of the one we rented.

i also had yet to develop an adventurous taste for food, or really, a taste for food at all. my parents, who have always been amateur foodies themselves, love a good french delicacy – but me, at fourteen? not so much. escargot? you think just ’cause you’re dressing those babies up in a nice name i’m going to want to eat snails? AS IF. duck? no thanks. i don’t really like eating things that i’ve seen waddling around the pond in my hometown’s college campus. i wrinkled my nose so much in paris, it’s a wonder it didn’t get stuck like that.

since i didn’t want to eat any of the fancy food served in parisian restaurants, i subsisted on a lot of bread and cheese during that trip – you know, stuff i could pronounce, without funky textures or weird names. but one day, strolling through a french farmer’s market, we came across the most delectably beautiful stand of fresh strawberries. you can’t imagine the glee i felt – something i could (and would) eat! i picked up a pint right then and there, and continued to peruse the market, biting off the heads of one juicy strawberry after another, sticking the tops in the lid of my plastic container.

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the barrel into which my strawberries went tumbling looked like this, except bigger.

as would be the fate of a picky fourteen year old, a few paces later, i managed to accidentally spill my entire pint of strawberries, bitten off heads and all, into a giant vat of fresh paprika. i should tell you right now that i don’t speak a word of french, and at fourteen, i was beyond awkward, totally shy, and had trouble stringing sentences together in english, let alone in another language. my parents did the dirty work of apologizing profusely, while i attempted to pick my strawberries out of the bin (my hand was immediately swatted away – clearly in hoping to remedy the situation, i just made it worse). there are few times in my adult life that have rivaled this experience in terms of embarrassment factor. suffice it to say, we didn’t return to that part of the market ever again.

the moral of the story? it would do me well to be a bit more adventurous in my eating. which is why i’m proud of this recipe, in which i took one of my formerly despised foods and transplanted into a food i love: pasta.

i’m pretty happy with the result, which was creamy and delicious and also, HOT PINK. i mean, what’s not to love about hot pink pasta? NOTHING, if you ask me. basically, i got these ENORMOUS beets at the farmer’s market on saturday, and in lieu of taking the traditional route and putting them into a salad, i decided i’d turn that salad into a pasta.

beets’ sweetness is extremely well complimented by the creaminess of goat cheese, and whatdya know, i’d picked up some fresh garlic and black pepper infused chevre at the market as well! so i roasted my beets, then tossed them with goat cheese, a little pasta water, some fresh italian parsley, and lemon juice. and you know what? hot pink pasta is YUMMY. Image

so, let’s go forth and make it, shall we?

The Recipe

1 oversized beet (seriously, mine was enormous) or a few small beets

1 lemon, zested and juiced

1 box of fusili or penne

3/4 cup goat cheese (if you can find herbed or flavored, go for it)

2 tbsp fresh italian parsley, diced and sliced

to make, roast your beet(s) in a 425 degree oven. you’ll want to drizzle them with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and then wrap them in aluminum foil. then, place them on a baking sheet or in a pan (i stuck mine in a glass bread pan) and stick ’em in there. cook for anywhere from 25 minutes to an hour. mine took a while because they were so huge, but smaller ones will take closer to the 25 minute mark. they’re done when you can easily piece the skin with a fork.

once your beets have cooked, remove them from the oven, and let them cool a bit. you need to peel the skins off, and you don’t want to burn yourself doing so. while you’re waiting for them to cool, put your pasta water on to boil, and zest and juice your lemon. set both the juice and zest aside. now, chop up your parsley. regular parsley would be fine here, but italian parsley is best. mint would also be delish!

once your water boils, dump your pasta in and add a bit of olive oil into the pot. stir and set your timer according to the directions on the box. now, peel your beets and chop them up into chunks. a bit bigger than bite size is perfect.

when your pasta finishes cooking, drain and reserve a bit of pasta water. put the pasta back into the pot, and add your goat cheese, beets and lemon juice. stir until the cheese has melted into a creamy sauce. if you need, add some water or white wine to thin the sauce out a bit more. dole pasta out into bowls and top with parsley and lemon zest.

there you go, folks. hot pink beetalicious pasta!

before you go judging me on this wacky title, i’ll tell you upfront: i didn’t make it up, not really. it’s my take on mario batali’s fusili alla crazy bastard, a recipe i stumbled upon earlier this week while doing foodie research for a freelance client of mine. batali’s recipe calls for beet greens, which i’ve never even heard of, and goat cheese, which i didn’t have on hand. but that’s the fun thing about cooking – you can swap, and nothing bad will happen! usually, at least. my mom’s cooking “experiments” led to some not so delicious dinners as a child (though she always loved what she whipped up, even if it meant putting lentils where lentils most definitely did not belong). with baking, which is more of a science, precision is everything. you can’t just swap one ingredient for another and hope for the best. with cooking, however, swapping and playing it by ear is part of the magic. if you’ve got yummy ingredients, and you season them well, it’s highly likely that the end result will always be a party in your mouth.

SO. penne all crazy bitch. when i got home tonight, after a long afternoon of day drinking (which, let’s face it, was a bit hard on my 85 year old grandma soul), all i wanted to do was call up the sushi place on the corner and place an order for two avocado rolls and one sweet potato tempura roll with a side of spicy mayo. but the little angel on my shoulder chimed in…”sarah, you’re unemployed. no ordering sushi. cook something, girl. you didn’t start this blog for nothing!” so, off to pinterest i went (my recipes board is where i turn when i can’t figure out what on earth to cook). and there was fusili alla crazy bastard. and i took one look at that bowl o’ delicious and thought, alright, that’s it. that’s what i’m making tonight.

except that i didn’t have fusili, only penne. and i had no goat cheese, only grated romano. and of course, no beet greens, because let’s be honest, i wouldn’t know a beet green if it smacked me in the face. is it just the greens portion of beets? a quick google search confirms that yes, it is. what i did have, however, was garlic and red pepper and spring greens and tomatoes, and a box of penne. and there’s really no way those ingredients can come together and NOT taste good. so i amended batali’s recipe to match my ingredients. i switched the beet greens for spring mix (i buy the bagged stuff at trader joe’s. can’t go wrong for $1.99), the cherry tomatoes for a sliced and diced beefsteak, the goat cheese for romano, and added mushrooms – because why not? everything is better with shrooms, as the druggies of the world can tell you. 

since i made so many changes, i figured my dish needed a different name. and as i’m a crazy bitch, not a crazy bastard…well, you get the jist. so, without further adieu, penne alla crazy bitch.

The Recipe (an adaptation of this one)

1/2 cup of walnuts

two large tomatoes, sliced and diced

1 1/2 cups of mushrooms, sliced

2-3 handfuls of spring greens/greens of your choice

Three cloves of garlic, chopped

Olive oil

1/2 tsp red pepper flakes

1 box pasta of your choice

1/2 cup grated romano or parmesan cheese

preheat oven to 350. spread the walnuts on a baking sheet and toast in the oven for 7 minutes. remove from oven, and chop. set aside. increase oven temperature to 450. toss diced tomatoes and mushrooms in a little bit of olive oil on a rimmed baking sheet. sprinkle with salt and pepper. roast in oven for 10 minutes.

meanwhile, bring a pot of salted water to a boil. add pasta and cook according to directions. while pasta is cooking, remove roasted tomatoes and mushrooms from the oven. saute garlic with a little bit of olive oil in a large pan until golden brown. add tomato and mushroom mixture to pan and toss. add spring greens and red pepper and cook until greens are just wilted, about three minutes.

drain pasta, and add it to vegetable mixture. toss a few times heat to marry the sauce and the pasta. remove from heat, and divy up dish into bowls. top with cheese of your choice, sprinkle with walnuts, and serve.

HELLO GORGEOUS. this dish is super delish, easy to make (20 minutes tops), and feels way fancier than it really is. plus, even my cat penny wanted a bite, and girlfriend has great taste* – so you know this stuff is good.

* i think anything would taste better than the canned cat food she eats.